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Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with local residents as she campaigns at the Jones Street Java House in LeClaire, Iowa April 14, 2015. Clinton, who announced on Sunday that she is running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nominatio
Very dangerous woman
The elaborate show of right-wing paranoia about the Clintons is ramping up:
During a May 4 appearance on The Dana Show, Loesch told Schweizer "there is always that concern for anyone who goes up against the Clinton machine that they could be Vince Fostered" and asked if he considered that possibility when "getting himself security." Schweizer replied: "Yeah, I mean look -- there are security concerns that arise in these kinds of situations."

Schweizer added that the security decision was made by his group, the Government Accountability Institute, and the "reality is we've touched on a major nerve within the Clinton camp. They are very, very upset, and they are pulling out all the stops to attack me in an effort to kill this book off."

Vince Foster is now a verb? In any case, Peter Schweizer and his doctors are the best people to know if he's suffering from the kind of depression that might lead him to commit suicide. If so, I hope he seeks help more aggressively than Vince Foster did, and avoids that fate. Because no, we're not going to be entertaining conspiracy theories about the Clintons and Foster's death, which was after all ruled a suicide repeatedly.

Schweizer's participation in that kind of talk certainly does highlight that he's not just a partisan but hails from the true Republican fever swamps. And "takes Vince Foster conspiracy theories seriously" is a great yardstick for measuring his general commitment to truthful reporting.

U.S. Republican presidential candidates gather before the start of their debate in Ames, Iowa August 11, 2011. They are (from L to R) Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich. REUTER
Here's a 2012 Republican debate. Now double it.
After the nonstop debatorama that was the 2012 Republican presidential primary, the party vowed to cut down on the number of debates in 2016. It's done that, going from 23 debates to 12. But what about the clown car that is the Republican field? How do you even get as many as 17 candidates on a stage, let alone give them time to say anything about their candidacy or positions? But how can Republicans decide who to exclude, especially when you're talking about people who will not be shy about trumpeting—and fundraising off of—their grievances? The Republican Party has to find a measure that allows in the people they want to allow in and keeps out the people they don't want on their stage, but without looking like it's rigged.

In that pursuit, Republicans face a number of potential problems. There's the appearance-of-diversity problem:

[Ben] Carson, according to a number of party insiders, is all-but-guaranteed a spot given his relatively strong polling in the GOP field. The bigger issue is former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina—the only woman seeking the Republican nomination and also one of the party’s most ferocious Clinton critics—who barely registers in polling. Both announced their presidential candidacies on Monday.
Fiorina is polling below two percent, so it would be hard to justify having her in while excluding others, but not letting one woman into your giant club is not the greatest look for 2016.

Then there's the blowhard problem:

There’s also the matter of Donald Trump. The reality television star has formed a presidential exploratory committee but has yet to officially declare himself a candidate for the White House. Should he do so, many Republican insiders say it would be hard for the party to exclude him—voters find him entertaining and he has a large megaphone with which he could embarrass the GOP. “This sounds crazy, but it’s safer to just include him,” said one 2016 presidential aide.
Hahahahahahaha. I'm sorry, I've got nothing but laughter on this one. Especially the part where they're worried about Trump embarrassing them if he's not allowed into the debate more than they're worried about him embarrassing them by what he says from the debate stage. Although I guess the variously absurd and offensive things Trump would say in a debate aren't necessarily so different from the absurd and offensive things Ben Carson or Ted Cruz would say. It's just the reality television flair he'd say them with.
Former Arkansas Governor and former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee addresses supporters during the third session of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 29, 2012.  REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES  - Tags: PO
And then there were ... [counts on fingers] ... six Republicans running for president. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced his run Tuesday morning at an event in his doubly symbolic birthplace of Hope, Arkansas. Naturally, Huckabee's announcement featured the hottest and most relevant entertainment:
Tony Orlando, a music start from the 1970s, is performing a song in Hope he wrote for Mike Huckabee called "America is my hometown."
What, no Ted Nugent? No Duggars?

Huckabee also signaled an entertaining campaign to come on his own merits:

“I never thought about using a firearm to murder someone”  — Huckabee, 2016
Not to mention that "As president, I promise you that we will no longer merely try to contain jihadism, we will conquer it. We will deal with jihadis just as we would deal with deadly snakes." In short, this should be entertaining.

10:11 AM PT: Huckabee struggled with fundraising in 2008, but there are right ways and wrong ways to change that:

"I will be funded and fueled not by the billionaires, but by working people who will find out that $15 and $25 a month contributions can take us from Hope to higher ground," he said. And then he added, to laughter, "Now, rest assured, if you want to give a million dollars, please do it." It was mostly a joke. It also violated campaign finance law.
Har har. Super funny in a campaign cycle where Jeb Bush is delaying his official campaign announcement to allow him more time to legally ask for million-dollar contributions to his super PAC.
U.S. presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks to reporters with a Secret Service agent looking on (L) in an auto shop as she campaigns for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination at Kirkwood Community College in Monti
Political junkies, even relatively casual ones, have long known that as soon as she stepped back into partisan politics, Hillary Clinton's favorable ratings would drop. During her time at the State Department and in private life, Clinton was an extremely popular figure, but we knew that would take a hit once she was under attack by Republicans and represented a choice on the ballot. The question was how big a hit and how she would compare to leading Republican candidates, and a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal has some preliminary answers:
In the new NBC/WSJ poll, Clinton's favorable/unfavorable rating stands at 42 positive, 42 negative (even) - down from 44 percent positive, 36 percent negative in March (+8).

Still, that break-even rating exceeds the fav/unfav scores for Republicans Marco Rubio (22 percent positive, 23 percent negative), Scott Walker (15 percent positive, 17 percent negative), Rand Paul (23 percent positive, 28 percent negative) and Jeb Bush (23 percent positive, 36 percent negative).

In head to head match-ups, Rand Paul comes the closest to Clinton, trailing by just three points while Bush and Rubio trail by six and Walker by 10. And then there's this:
The Latino Vote: In new NBC/WSJ poll, Hillary leads both Jeb (66%-28%) and Rubio (63%-32%) among Latino voters
I guess Marco Rubio isn't a magic solution to Republican problems with Latino voters, after all. Gee, who could possibly have foreseen that?

Obviously, Clinton's name recognition is much higher than that of the Republicans, so they have more room to define themselves positively or be defined negatively by opponents. But so far, the drop in Clinton's favorables is no more than you'd expect given the relentless Republican attacks she's already facing, and her likely Republican opponents don't look poised to catch up with her—not to mention that they have to climb over each other to get to the nomination to begin with.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton smiles after delivering the keynote address at the Women in the World summit in New York April 23, 2015.   REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RTX1A1P6
Remember when she already testified to committees in both the House and Senate about Benghazi?
The back-and-forth over when and about what Hillary Clinton will testify to the House Benghazi Committee continues. Because of course it does, what with Republicans wanting to drag out the process as much as possible in an ongoing attempt to create scandal. The big question these days is whether Republicans are more interested in talking about Benghazi itself or about Clinton's emails. House Benghazi Czar Trey Gowdy tried to get Clinton to submit to a private interview on the emails before a public Benghazi hearing, only to have her say no thanks, she'd rather do both publicly and at the same time:
David Kendall, Clinton's lawyer, said Clinton would testify once on both topics, on a day designated by the committee during the week of May 18th or later.

"On such day, she will stay as long as necessary to answer the committee's questions, but will not prolong the committee's efforts further by appearing on two separate occasions when one will suffice," Kendall wrote in a letter delivered on Monday.

The likely Republican play is to start out with hours of questions on Clinton's emails, then declare her answers on that topic inadequate and refuse to ask her about Benghazi as time runs out, "forcing" them to call her back to talk about the ostensible subject of their entire committee. Gowdy has made clear that since Clinton did not personally vet every single one of her emails and decide which to turn over to the State Department, but had a lawyer do it, he won't accept her personal assurance that everything relevant was turned over. David Corn writes:
Clinton is trying to avoid being so cornered. On Monday, Kendall sent a letter to Gowdy, asserting there was no need for two rounds of testimony. "Respectfully," he wrote, "there is no basis, logic, or precedent for such an unusual request." Clinton, he added, was prepared to come before the committee and stay as long as necessary to answer all queries about the Benghazi attack and her emails. Kendall reminded Gowdy that Clinton has already testified about Benghazi before other House and Senate committees (which, by the way, have found no wrongdoing or conspiracies on her part). In a not-so-veiled jibe at Gowdy, Kendall noted that Clinton "believes that the Members of the Committee are able to decide how much they will focus on the tragic deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, including what can be done to keep those who serve our country safe—and how much they will focus on how she e-mailed."

After all this parrying, the question is, does Gowdy want to have Clinton testify about the what transpired in Benghazi (and Washington) and proceed with the investigation—the House GOPers have already spent more time investigating Benghazi than Congress devoted to the Iran-contra scandal—or does he want to play cat and mouse with Clinton far into the election cycle?

Let's take that as a rhetorical question. Benghazi was always an excuse for Republicans to go looking for a scandal to attach to first President Obama and then Hillary Clinton. In a move many voters will remember from previous episodes between Republicans and the Clintons, the initial investigation has now turned up something else—Clinton's emails—that Republicans are hoping will be juicier campaign fodder than Benghazi. Because let's face it, the only voters who care about Benghazi are voters who were never in a million years going to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Scene of police cars, chyron "Fox crew witnesses police shooting of black man in Baltimore."
Fox News made a major oops on Monday afternoon, and not of the usual Fox News kind. This wasn't a partisan lie about Obamacare or anything like that. No, a Fox reporter claimed to have been an eyewitness to a police shooting that did not happen. According to Fox's Mike Tobin:
"I was getting ready to do a live shot for my shift ... I was sitting in the car, scribbling on my notes for the next live shot, and he ran right in front of us," Tobin said. "I never saw the individual turn and do anything I would consider an aggressive act, but we did see the officer draw his weapon and I counted one gunshot."
But I guess this is why eyewitnesses aren't the be-all and end-all of investigating and prosecuting crimes:
"What's happened is we screwed up what it sounds like," [Fox host Shepard] Smith said. "I can tell you one thing, Mike Tobin would never — I've been through this. Mike Tobin thought he saw somebody get shot. And there was a gun. And there was a patient on a stretcher. And there was a woman who said she saw the cops gun him down and there's gonna be violence and all the rest of that. And what we have is nothing."
When what seems like a big story starts breaking on social media, it can be tough to sit back a few minutes and wait to find out if it's for real. Many, many news organizations have at some point passed along early reports that turned out not to be true. Usually when you have an eyewitness account coming directly from a news organization, you figure it's for real ... but here's a great reminder of why it's good to wait for confirmation.
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question as he debates President Barack Obama during the second U.S. presidential campaign debate in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Wow, Mitt Romney. Just wow. At a time when even many Republicans are pretending to care about mass incarceration, Romney instead attacked Hillary Clinton for saying that we need to "end the era of mass incarceration." In fact, he denied that it's a reality:
I was concerned that her comments smacked of politicization of the terrible tragedies that are going on there. When she said we’re not going to have mass incarcerations in the future, what is she referring to? We don’t have mass incarcerations in America. Individuals are brought before tribunals, and they have counsel. They’re given certain rights. Are we not going to lock people up who commit crimes?
Mitt Romney is famously a business guy, so presumably he likes numbers and facts. Let's turn to one very basic fact on incarceration in America.
Incarceration rates for OECD nations. United States WAY WAY above everyone else.
That is mass. Politicians have to grapple with this, and there are two basic possibilities. One is that Americans are uniquely likely to commit crimes, that we are a nation of criminals, and that the only thing to do is to lock us up by the millions. The other is that the United States has different policies than other nations, that those policies produce higher incarceration rates (and possibly higher crime rates), and that we could change the policies. That we could make another choice and reduce prison populations without endangering ourselves. That just because there is a system in which there are tribunals and counsel and certain rights does not mean current incarceration rates in the U.S. represent true justice.
Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal
Kimberley Strassel
What's responsible for Baltimore's problems? Republicans need answers other than "massive economic inequality, racism, and police violence," and when Republicans need answers but can't admit what the real problems are, they turn to a familiar set of scapegoats. Take Wall Street Journal editorial board member and columnist Kimberley Strassel's answer to Chuck Todd's question "how should the business community be responding to Baltimore?" Strassel quickly pivoted: "They want to be able to help in this situation, but ..."
The reality, there has been a kind of common plan in a lot of these cities, which is what John Boehner was referring to. There have been a lot of policies out there that you see replicated across these cities, of sort of central planning, lots of money being poured in from both the state and the federal level, but you still have a failing education system dominated by public sector unions, teachers unions, you've still got high crime and high unemployment.
And if you could fix all that, then maybe the business sector would care to invest. Voila!

The truth is that central planning has been a factor in creating the problems of cities like Baltimore. Specifically, decades of government-sponsored segregation created a hell of a lot of problems and prevented black families from building and passing through generations the kind of wealth that white families have.

As for Baltimore's failing education system dominated by teachers unions—a point that, precisely because it comes out of nowhere in Strassel's response, we know is an important one, something she worked to get in there—we need to talk about two things here. One is that, nationally, states where the teachers are unionized have better educational outcomes than states where they are not. This is not mostly because of teachers unions, it's because states that have unions also tend to have other characteristics that are good for education, but it's certainly a reason to be suspicious anytime someone tries to tell you that teachers unions hurt education.

Second, the big thing that affects educational outcomes—The. Big. Thing.—is family income. If you want to make a solid guess about how "effective" an area's schools and teachers are, find out its average income. Does Kimberley Strassel really think that if you took the teachers from the highest-performing schools in non-union states and put them in Baltimore, working under the rules they work under in their home states, suddenly Baltimore schools would have the outcomes of the best schools in the wealthiest towns in Georgia or Texas? Like hell she does, if she's being honest. But the right's crusade against teachers unions trumps honesty about what's going on in Baltimore's schools.

Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush
Is this Mitt Romney's big legacy? Republican presidential candidates are straining to show that they really, really care about people who aren't rich. And it is a strain, since they certainly can't offer up any policies they support that would help the non-rich. There are those who use their own biographies to argue that they care:
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida praises his parents, a bartender and a Kmart stock clerk, as he urges audiences not to forget “the workers in our hotel kitchens, the landscaping crews in our neighborhoods, the late-night janitorial staff that clean our offices.”
Don't forget them, but don't do anything nuts like raise the minimum wage so many of them are paid, or support paid leave or affordable health care.

There are also those Republican candidates who can't run on biography, so they just make broad claims and hope no one asks for details:

On a visit last week to Puerto Rico, Mr. Bush sounded every bit the populist, railing against “elites” who have stifled economic growth and innovation. In the kind of economy he envisions leading, he said: “We wouldn’t have the middle being squeezed. People in poverty would have a chance to rise up. And the social strains that exist — because the haves and have-nots is the big debate in our country today — would subside.”
So ... free college? Strengthening regulations on Wall Street? Taxing the rich and using the revenue to invest in infrastructure, creating lots of good construction jobs? Yeah, I didn't think so.

There's a cliche in writing that may need to become a cliche in politics: Show, don't tell. Don't tell me you care about non-rich people, show me. In policy, not by showing up at a soup kitchen and washing dishes that aren't dirty.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton waits to be introduced during an early voting rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana October 20, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR4AWCL
Former President Bill Clinton is pushing back against the attacks on the Clinton Foundation's fundraising, pointing to the side of the story the media is less interested in telling: what the foundation does, including:
... good works like the "Wings to Fly" program that has helped 10,000 poor kids in Kenya attend high school.

The program has been a whopping success, with 94 percent of the kids graduating and 98 percent of them going on to college. [...]

While in Tanzania, he and 20 of the foundation's big donors also visited the Anchor Farm Project which is expected to produce huge yields of maize and soy and to help locals learn new agricultural techniques. They connected with a group called "Solar Sisters" that empowers women by selling environmentally friendly products such as solar lights and cook stoves.

They are headed Monday to Liberia — where they helped the government combat HIV/AIDS and coordinated delivery of medical equipment and supplies during the Ebola epidemic — to see several survivors.

Instead, the media has been fixating on the story being spread by Republican operative Peter Schweizer in his book Clinton Cash, a story centered on speculation that donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees for Bill Clinton were used to influence Hillary Clinton in her time heading the State Department. While the Clinton Foundation has made a few mistakes in its reporting of contributions from foreign governments, Bill Clinton points out that:
"The guy that filled out the forms made an error," he said. "Now that is a bigger problem, according to the press, than the other people running for president willing to take dark money, secret money, secret from beginning to end."
Like Jeb Bush, who's delaying his official entry into the presidential race so he can keep coordinating with his super PAC and is even talking about outsourcing traditional campaign functions to the super PAC. Bush's family has also trailed the Clintons on disclosing donors to the foundations of its two former presidents—David Corn points out that the foundation supporting George H.W. Bush's library did not disclose donors while his son was president, and neither that nor George W. Bush's equivalent foundation is disclosing donors while Jeb is running for president.

But for some mysterious reason, the media seems more interested in talking about Peter Schweizer's weak allegations than about the holes in those allegations, or Bush family fundraising practices, or any of the stuff the Clinton Foundation is doing with the money it takes in.

Carly Fiorina at CPAC 2014.
Carly Fiorina
The vast Republican presidential field is quickly shifting from one composed mostly of likely candidates to one of candidates who are all in. These days that's a largely technical distinction having more to do with whether a candidate wants to focus on fundraising for a super PAC or an official campaign than with whether they've actually decided to run for president, but in any case, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and failed tech executive Carly Fiorina have made the jump into actual-candidate status, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is expected to do so Tuesday. It's very exciting.
Republican observers are especially enthused by the entrance of Carson, the only African-American in the field, and Fiorina, who’s likely to be the only female GOP candidate, to bring added diversity to a field that already includes two Cuban Americans in Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas).

“The diversity is great,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak. “It shows we’re a much broader party than the caricature some try to put on us.”

No, it shows you're a party that's willing to embrace tokens if they sound like every other Republican. We went through this with Sarah Palin in 2008, remember? Where Republicans get all excited about a completely unqualified candidate because said candidate puts an unexpected face on the same damn positions, while the party in no way shifts toward the interests of the groups they're supposedly trying to appeal to with that candidate?

So what do we have here? Ben Carson was apparently a great neurosurgeon, but the reason Republicans think he'd make a good presidential candidate is that in 2013 he made a speech criticizing President Obama's policies at the National Prayer Breakfast with Obama in the room. Carly Fiorina's tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard was a notorious failure, and she subsequently lost a Senate race, but boy does she like to criticize Hillary Clinton, specifically doing so as a woman. See a pattern here?

In the giant Republican field, Carson is polling seventh nationally and in New Hampshire and sixth in Iowa, which means the Republican Party has a chance of being able to write its debate eligibility rules to get him on the state. Fiorina, however, is mired so far at the bottom of the pack it may be best to describe it as "below Bobby Jindal" territory.

13 states rank in the top 20 on both high union density and low workplace fatalities.
This week, in honor of Workers Memorial Day, the AFL-CIO released its Death on the Job report. Some facts:
In 2013, 4,585 workers were killed on the job in the United States, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day from hazardous working conditions.

Nearly 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported, but many injuries
are not reported. The true toll is likely two to three times greater, or 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries each year.

Over the past four years, the job fatality rate has declined slightly each year, with a rate of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2013 compared with a rate of 3.6 per 100,000 workers in 2010. [...]

Latino workers continue to be at increased risk of job fatalities. The fatality rate among Latino workers increased in 2013 to 3.9 per 100,000 workers, up from a rate of 3.7 per 100,000 in 2012. At the same time, the number and rate of fatalities for all other races declined or stayed the same. There were 817 Latino workers killed on the job in 2013, up from 748 deaths in 2012. Sixty-six percent of the fatalities (542 deaths) in 2013 were among workers born outside the United States. There was a sharp increase in Latino deaths among grounds maintenance workers. Specifically, deaths related to tree trimming and pruning doubled among Latino workers since 2012, and 87% of the landscaping deaths among Latino workers were immigrants. [...]

Workplace violence continues to be the second leading cause of job fatalities in the United States (after transportation incidents), responsible for 773 worker deaths and 26,520 lost-time injuries in 2013. Women workers suffered 70% of the lost-time injuries related to workplace violence.

The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous—estimated at $250 billion to $360
billion a year.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's education and labor news.
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